Here’s Part II of the mailbag. If you missed Part I, you can read it here.
To the questions …
I saw recently that the Pac 12 & Big 10’s deal for every school to play each other in football fell through. Do you think the ACC & VT would ever try or be interested in pairing up with the Big 10 or SEC in this sort of non-conference matchup? I would think that an ACC / Big Ten (or SEC) Challenge weekend in football would be a great weekend of college football and would bring great exposure to the conferences! What do you think?
– Harrison Poole, Virginia Beach
Those sort of scheduling agreements work in basketball, where you have plenty of non-conference slots available. But football is extremely limited, and with conferences going to a nine-game league schedule (which includes the ACC), you’re talking about three open non-conference spots.
Some schools have even bigger problems, since their big in-state rival is a non-conference opponent. Georgia Tech plays Georgia every year. Clemson plays South Carolina. And Florida State plays Florida. If you add on a comparable opponent from a power conference to a schedule that already features nine league games, a BCS-caliber state rival and a BCS-caliber opponent through some sort of conference crossover, you’re looking at some very unhappy schools.
I’d love to see it. I think the more big-league games that these teams can play in the first month would enhance the college football season. Inter-conference matchups like Alabama-Michigan and Clemson-Auburn and even N.C. State-Tennessee are what make the first few weeks so interesting. Realistically, though, I just don’t see it as a viable option because of the constraints so many teams have with their schedules.
Is there a chance Kendall [Fuller], Holland [Fisher], Bucky [Hodges] or any other current 2013 verbal commitments enroll in January? How do you see things like the talent to play early, guys leaving early for the draft, current grayshirts like Smith and Harris, and the moving target of scholarship numbers affecting the ability for this to happen from VT’s or the commit’s standpoint?
– Peter, Williamsburg
When I spoke with Carlis Parker’s coach after he committed in the spring, he said that it’s a possibility for the athlete. I’m not sure how many other guys that’s a possibility for because there are a couple of factors: first, the player’s high school calendar has to be set up to allow it, and second, the coaches have to feel comfortable that the kid can make a smooth transition.
The numbers aren’t really an issue in January. I think there are 15 seniors on scholarship who will be departing (a few others might get available schollies in their final year). Nowhere close to that many guys will be joining the program in January. I’d say it’s usually about two or three. The real numbers question comes in August, when an entire freshman class arrives and the 85 number becomes a concern. But these teams do their due diligence in preparing for situations and letting players know where they stand. They don’t yank a scholarship away from a guy. The player knows whether or not a grayshirt is a possibility.
How is the rehab of LBs Bruce Taylor and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow proceeding? If the season were to start now could they play or is more rehab time needed? Also, is the Lisfranc injury the type that is more likely to recur once a person has suffered one, or does he start again from square one?
– Scott Whitaker
Other than late game blowouts, how will the coaches get Ronnie Vandyke game experience? I’m sure they want him to have as much game time as possible before the 2013 opener against Alabama. Could they possibly use Vandyke and Tweedy in nickel packages the way Exum and Fuller have been used in that role past two years. I think this would make sense given their athleticism, Vandyke’s work in the secondary his redshirt year and the youth/Inexperience of our back-up corners.
– Alex, Damascus
I’ll take both of these at the same time. I wrote about Taylor’s situation in the middle of July. Structurally, his foot is fine. But he’ll have some pain that he’ll have to deal with this season. It’s not ideal, but it won’t keep him off the field. As for the Lisfranc, I don’t know if it’s likely to recur or not, but it’s always a threat for any football player given the twists and blows that a player’s foot takes over the course of a game.
Gouveia-Winslow’s injury was not as severe, so he was further ahead in his rehab. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him, but there is probably some similar element in his recovery as Taylor. But he might not be in the mix. Colleague Mark Giannotto of the Washington Post had a chat with defensive coordinator Bud Foster the other day and reported that Tweedy and Vandyke might be the two players vying for the starting spot this year, with Gouveia-Winslow next on the depth chart. That might have more to do simply with athleticism.
Gouveia-Winslow has never been known for his physical traits on the field, while Tweedy is a guy who can run with wide receivers and the 6-foot-3, 215-poundy Vandyke has been described as the “ideal” guy for the position by Foster. Either Tweedy or Vandyke would be able to stick with receivers, which, as Alex pointed out, would mean Tech could essentially play nickel defense with its base package, a nice little option to have. Bottom line: Vandyke is the player of the future at the position. It seems like the Hokies would like to start grooming him for that role.
Any clue if Virginia Tech will be a part of the Pro Combat unis this year? I know they’re wearing the camo for the Bowling Green game but didn’t know if they had any other plans.
– Bryan Head
I have not heard anything to that effect yet. This is the time of year that special uniforms start getting released. Nebraska showed off its black-helmet, all-red look the other day (although that was adidas). The Hokies have never been shy to experiment with whatever Nike wants to try, so I wouldn’t rule it out. But I don’t have anything definitive that something special is in the works.
I don’t have any real question pertaining to this season and probably won’t until practice gets rolling. I just wanted to hit you up with a question with a what-if scenario about next season. With the official commitment of Kendall it got me thinking what will happen to our secondary in 2013. If Kendall comes in and is able to play right away which from what I have seen he is what will that mean for our team. Here are the different scenarios that I have considered. This is all assuming Kyle and Antone both stick around for their final year. #1. Kendall plays a backup role and fully learns the system to step in as a starter in 2014. #2. Kyle gets moved over to the open Whip spot giving up his CB spot for his younger brother to step in, this of course is assuming Kendall is further along at that time than Manning. #3. Kyle and Kendall get the starting nods on the outside whereas Antone gets moved back to one of the two safety spots. I know there is no way of knowing beforehand exactly what scenario is going to play out just thought this would stir the imagination some.
– Nathan Glover
I suppose I should have included this in Part I of the mailbag when I was addressed another Kendall Fuller question. I think he most likely scenario if everyone sticks around, is for Kendall to get his feet wet in the nickel package. That’s how a lot of cornerbacks work their way up to primetime. Assuming Kyle and Exum return and with Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett at safety, that’s the entire starting defensive backfield coming back. I don’t think you’d mess with that. Add in the fact that any true freshman is going to have to make an adjustment to playing at the college level, and it seems to me like it makes more sense to have Kendall play a smaller role that grows rather than giving him a big role right away. But with Vandyke expected to be a do-it-all whip, it makes you wonder how much nickel Virginia Tech will even use. I know this: the defensive coaching staff sure likes to have these kind of problems rather than trying to make up for a lack of depth.
I have a rather research-intensive question but one I think would have an interesting answer. We hear a lot about the accuracy, or lack thereof, of recruiting rankings, but are these rankings more accurate for some positions than others? E.g., is a 4 star RB more likely to be successful at VT than a 4 star OL? This would require going back at the recruiting rankings and comparing players’ star rankings with a subjective “success” ranking that you could base on the players’ contributions at VT. One challenge would be treating players that leave the program early and how to assign them a “success” star ranking. I’d suggest categorizing them differently so for each position there’s be a star ranking comparison as described above for players that finished their careers and another statistic of percentage who leave the program early.
– Mike Leonard, Fredericksburg
This is a fantastic idea and one, for the purposes of this mailbag, is a little beyond my scope right now. I certainly think this would be a good story to do around signing day. I’ll try to revisit it then when the on-the-field stuff isn’t the primary focus of my reporting. I’d like to do this question justice.
Who are your dark horse picks to win the Atlantic and Coastal division?
In the Atlantic, I think I’d go with N.C. State. That team started to figure something out in the second half of last year, winning six of its final eight games, including a 37-13 beatdown of Clemson. Granted, the Wolfpack lost to Florida State 34-0 during that stretch, so there’s still a lot of work to do, but plenty returns. You’ve got quarterback Mike Glennon, who threw for over 3,000 yards last year. Some are saying he could be among the best in the ACC. Plus, four offensive linemen return, which is always a good indicator. Defensively, they return all four defensive backs, including All-American cornerback David Amerson, in an interception-happy secondary. There are plenty of question marks, like linebackers, but there is enough talent to make you think N.C. State could surprise people. Plus, the Wolfpack gets its toughest matchup, FSU, at home.
In the Coastal, I just can’t see anybody springing a surprise. North Carolina would have qualified, but the Tar Heels are ineligible for the postseason and can’t participate in the ACC title game. Miami lost a lot and will be very young. Down the line the ‘Canes will be a threat again, but not now. Duke is Duke, so I don’t really need to get into the Blue Devils. And Virginia, for all the steps forward it took last year, lost a ton from that defense, which was the heart and soul of that team. To run behind that strong offensive line and play a ball control offense like the Cavaliers prefer, the defense has to hold up its end of the bargain. I’m not sure it is capable of doing that this year, at least not to the point of winning the division. That leaves Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, the two favorites. I guess the importance of the Labor Day night game hasn’t been overstated after all.